In the age of modern technology, the internet and digital media have allowed businesses to pursue many opportunities electronically. However, with the increased use of virtual business meetings – and 2020 has dramatically contributed to this due to the global pandemic with more people working from home – the question is raised of whether face-to-face interactions are still important to business development.
You’ve probably seen the polls on LinkedIn whereby your reaction to the post states your working preference – i.e. a ‘like’ for working from home, a ‘love’ for working in the office, and a ‘celebrate’ for a mixture of both. From these posts that we’ve seen, the majority vote for a mixture of both working at home and in the office. This shows that although many people are now seeing benefits of working remotely, there is still a desire for human interaction when it comes to developing business.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re all guilty of enjoying working from home in our sweatpants, changing only our breakfast-stained top to a clean, crisp shirt for those Zoom meetings. But, what are the benefits of getting out and about to do business in person?
1. Body language. Most communication isn’t delivered through words; it is done by reading the small signs of people’s body language, hand gestures, eye contact and facial expressions. For example, a smile indicates confidence. Research suggests that our brain prioritises non-verbal communication over verbal communication. Therefore, how you carry yourself is often more important than the words that come out of your mouth. Having the opportunity to ‘read’ people is invaluable to business development as it gives you information that you would not be able to obtain via electronic means of communication.
2. Business connections appreciate it. Taking the time and effort to meet a business connection face-to-face makes a strong impression as it shows you appreciate your relationship with them. This increases your loyalty to one another and strengthens business ties.
3. Develop transparency and trust. We’ve all probably used a more distant form of communication, such as email, to ignore a required action. This is much harder to do in person, so face-to-face meetings may nurture a better relationship built on trust. Trust is a fundamental element to building sound business relationships, and research shows that trust is built far more quickly with face-to-face contact rather than through electronic communication. It’s also easier to persuade people during personal interaction, so if you need to influence someone over an important matter, meeting them in person is the best way to go about it.
4. Getting personal. When people meet in person, communication often becomes a lot more informal. Having more relaxed conversations can lead to business connections being more willing to open up and give off-the-record information. You might also find that an informal chat leads off course to different avenues that you weren’t expecting to explore – such as your opinion being wanted on other aspects of business or the mention of other business opportunities.
Overall, although electronic means of communication may be more convenient, there’s a level of deeper engagement from in-person interaction that you just can’t get from a virtual meeting. So, if you aim to set up a few face-to-face meetings when covid restrictions allow, you’ll be rewarded with greater appreciation and will develop trustworthy, solid relationships across your business network.